I've found a useful configuration option for if you're using Ubuntu on a Windows-layout keyboard and you're used to Apple's keyboards and ⌘ (Command)-shortcuts:

System → Preferences → Keyboard → Layouts → Options… → Alt/Win key behavior → Control is mapped to Alt keys, Alt is mapped to Win keys

With this option enabled, the Alt keys (in the Mac ⌘ position on the keyboard) function as Control keys, and the Windows keys (in the Mac Alt/Option position) function as Alt.

Having just discovered this, I find it quite handy for the years of muscle memory of ⌘W and other such shortcuts. (No, I haven't switched to Ubuntu; I just frequently find myself using it for software compatibility testing and so on.)

You may recall my post about looking for a new PDA. I have lately found additional pressure to find a solution.

  • Moving about on my own in new locations, I wish for a GPS/navigation device. I am currently borrowing a standalone GPS, but that's Yet Another Gadget
  • …to add to the four I already carry about (phone, PDA, watch, iPod).
  • My phone is on a prepaid plan which was chosen to be cheap for low usage rates. But it quickly becomes not-cheap under higher usage than a couple minutes a day — which I have when trying to do such things as coordinate three people on an errand.

I've compiled some of the options and what features they have into this Google Docs spreadsheet: Gadget Coverage List. Note that “-” means “No”.

At the moment, I am strongly considering getting an Android phone, specifically the Nexus One. I have recently determined that Android meets all my requirements, at least given some third-party software.

Buying a phone (and a plan) is indeed a higher cost than a stand-alone PDA, but I think universal Internet access is worth it.

Costs and carriers

The phone, unsubsidized and unlocked, is $529.

Given that it is GSM, I understand there are basically two carriers to consider: T-Mobile and AT&T. I get the impression that T-Mobile is somewhat less evil than AT&T, and I hear complaints about AT&T's network. On the other hand, T-Mobile does not have coverage (even roaming) in Potsdam, NY, where I'm going to be spending the next two years.

T-Mobile offers a monthly plan for $60/mo, 500 minutes/mo plus fees and (as far as I've looked now) a $35 activation fee. (The option to buy a plan without a phone was buried: you have to choose "T-Mobile SIM card" from the phone list.) I get the impression that the obscure monthly 'taxes and fees' can be around $3-$20 depending on the particular situation. Total cost over 2 years (not including phone): $1475+fees.

AT&T is, er, changing tomorrow. But now it would apparently be $70/mo, 450 minutes/mo, for a two-year contract with a free locked phone (which could be tossed or resold). Plus taxes and fees. After the change in data plan pricing, it would be (assuming no other changes) $65 for 2GB or $55 for 200MB data. Total cost over 2 years (2GB option): $1560+fees, and the phone works in Potsdam.

In both of these cases I assume the cheapest voice plan option.

One option would be to go with T-Mobile for the 2.5 months before I arrive in Potsdam; this would minimize my initial obligation to $709, and assuming I found I liked having a smartphone around sufficiently, I could then switch to AT&T for service during my 2-year stay in Potsdam.